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This paper analyses the changing competence requirements which members of the food chain face in their pursuit of competitive advantage. Two groups of trends serve as point of departure: more dynamic and heterogeneous consumer demands, which can be analysed in terms of consumer demands for sensory, health, process and convenience qualities, and changing roles for retailers in the food chain. Based on these trends, it is argued that competencies which can increase producers' level of market orientation get increased weight in the attainment of competitive advantage, and three types of competencies are singled out as especially important: consumer understanding, relationship management, and new product development. The development of market-related competencies aimed at exploiting trends in consumer behaviour and retailing will also entail changing forms of cooperation among members of the value chain, which favour both new ways of adding value but also new ways of matching consumer heterogeneity with heterogeneity in agricultural raw materials.


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